SARANAC LAKE — Teachers were dancing, cops were cheering and a polar bear was handing out high-fives in front of Petrova Elementary School on Friday morning.
Counseling staff at the school had welcomed the community to greet students getting off their buses, returning the kindness the children have been showing all week as part of the Great Kindness Challenge.
Members of the Winter Carnival Court, New York State Police troopers and village police officers, members of the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department, business owners and politicians were there to greet the students.
Bloomingdale Elementary School students also participated in the challenge and on Friday, families and Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department members greeted students with posters and cheers as they arrived to school.
The event week was organized by counselors Katelyn Rose, Katie Gaylord and Tara Cassidy with administrative support from Principal Bryan Munn and Dean of Students Katie Laba.
The Great Kindness Challenge is a week-long international event where schools and other organizations take time to teach and practice kindness.
Gaylord worked with a co-founder of the challenge when she lived in Virginia. When she moved to Saranac Lake to work at the school, she brought the idea with her.
SLCSD Superintendent Diane Fox was glad to participate.
“Who could say ‘no’ to this?” she asked Friday morning, laughing and holding a sign as students hugged “Paws,” the school’s polar bear mascot.
Members of the Carnival Court kindly chided some students for not layering up for the cold weather — several were walking in without winter jackets and one boy had shorts on in the 17-degree weather.
Each day of this week students were assigned to be kind to different people — family, neighbors, people at school and themselves.
They had a checklist of 48 kind acts to choose from. Some were easily done — sincerely compliment five people, call your grandparents or learn to say “thank you” in a new language. Some would take more effort — go a full day without complaining, raise funds and donate to your favorite cause or make a wish for a child in another country.
On one day, they wrote letters to the school’s custodians. Gaylord said the staff was touched by children writing them letters thanking them for their work. She said they’d never seen letters like that before.
Rose said they plan to continue this kindness week every year.